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Biotech Science

Billy the Kid Faces The Law... Again 274

Jason Raddin writes " has an interesting story about a new showdown in the Old West. It seems as if Billy the Kid can still cause problems for the law-men of New Mexico, even as he rests in his grave. Several small New Mexico towns claim to possess the "true" grave of Billy the Kid (a.k.a. William H. Bonney, Henry McCarty, Kid Antrim). Two sheriffs in Capitan, New Mexico have proposed that this mystery be solved using modern DNA testing. The proposal was made in June to exhume the remains of Bonney's mother and the two reported graves of Bonney. This has spurred a hot legal debate raising an interesting question: which is more important, tourist dollars or the truth?"
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Billy the Kid Faces The Law... Again

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  • The Truth (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jeffasselin ( 566598 ) <(cormacolinde) (at) (> on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:07PM (#7460805) Journal
    Really. I mean is there even an argument here?
  • by baneblackblade ( 682424 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:09PM (#7460814) Homepage
    Right, so this is a very suspense-inducing story. I can tell. I just have to wonder, though, as this sort of thing doesn't really inspire suspense in me (plugging in a new cable does, though), why is this story on Slashdot? I mean, really. I'd rather hear about someone (or even several towns) digging up his (or anyone's for that matter) remains and rigging them with wireless technology that allows people to control their movements. Now that would be cool...
    but this? bah...
  • Better Question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pcbob ( 67069 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:17PM (#7460876) Homepage
    I would think that more important question to be raised here is how moral/ethical it is to dig out graves for tourists' money.
  • by SkArcher ( 676201 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:18PM (#7460882) Journal
    make up some bullshit excuse why and loudly proclaim that their is still the genuine body of course...

    Not too different to what'll happen if either one is proven to be him.
  • How about respect? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KFury ( 19522 ) * on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:19PM (#7460887) Homepage
    "...which is more important, tourist dollars or the truth?"

    How about respecting the dead? Is 'loss of tourism' really the best answer we can come up with to not open up two people's graves (at least one of whom is assuredly not Billy the Kid)?
  • by jasonditz ( 597385 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:24PM (#7460915) Homepage
    Since when do living people have rights?
  • Re:The Truth (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aardvarkjoe ( 156801 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:25PM (#7460923)
    But in this case, is the truth of any real importance? I can't see any reason to possibly destroy people's livelihood over something that really doesn't matter.
  • by c0dedude ( 587568 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:25PM (#7460926)
    News For Nerds, Stuff that matters. That's the test. A new technology comes in that lets you determine identity accuratly, 100%. A man has died and been buried for around 100 years. The question here is: "Should technology be used retroactivly?"

    Consider the following example. A person is murdered. A murder-machine is invented 100 years after the person is killed that tells who killed a person even 100 years after the person died. Is it ethical to put the families of the suspects (all the suspects are long dead) through the trauma of knowing that their grandfather was a murderer?

    Geekdom is occasionally concerned with science fiction, and science fiction creates worlds with rules designed such that the author can play with an idea. Here, the rules change such that a person can determine identity 100%. This change makes this News for Nerds, and I'd certanly say that the issue of retroactive technology, which can include DNA Testing, Mitochondrial DNA, and Cryogenics, matters.
  • by JayBlalock ( 635935 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:51PM (#7461068)
    He may have been a real person once, but today, Billy the Kid is a mythological figure no different than Zeus or Odin. Without delving too deeply into Campbell, I'd say that going to all this effort to prove which is THE Mister The Kid really accomplishes nothing, when allowing his stories to thrive uninterrupted provides a psychological service.
  • by SetarconeX ( 160251 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:58PM (#7461115)
    I've got a lot of family in New Mexico and Arizona, and I've actually been to a couple towns which claim to have his body, and you know what?

    Nobody really cares, outside of those towns.

    The problem is, some of these town, having basically nothing aside from big-ass desert, have so little in the way of anything whatsoever, that some of these little towns a hundred miles from anything have to go out of their ways to rationalize their existance.

    And you know what's really shocking? It's not even a tourist thing. There's not that much cash in it. Nobody makes holy pilgrimages to Billy the Kid's tomb. It's a pride thing. It's completely about these towns wanting some claim to history, however miniscule.

    It's rather sad really. Not unlike the town of Roswell, where you can't go downtown without seeing a dozen shops selling schlocky plastic alien trinkets.
  • Re:The Truth (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pavon ( 30274 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @12:05AM (#7461167)
    No they are not. They both have historical reason to believe that Billy the Kid is buried there. Are they 100% certain about this? No. But that's not lying thats history - there is always uncertainty about the records and recollections of the past. There is no reason to think that these small town people, who have made nice museums and done their part to keep history alive, are a bunch of fraudulent scum. They are just uncertian.

    Oh, and I don't know who framed that truth vs. tourism question but it is pretty stupid.
  • Re:What about... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fa098h23fra ( 462115 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @12:15AM (#7461216)
    I agree, the rights of the corpse to stay buried supercede everything else. I mean, what if I die and years later my friends want to settle a bet about whether I really did have that superfluous third nipple? Can they exhume my corpse and do some kind of test? I say, leave the dead in the ground where they belong.
  • Re:The Truth (Score:2, Insightful)

    by randyest ( 589159 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @12:47AM (#7461393) Homepage
    I see your point, but I have to answer: no. Dead don't rest. They rot. And that aint peaceful.
  • by darnok ( 650458 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @01:36AM (#7461644)
    To precis the story:
    - popular legend has it that Billy the Kid was buried in place A
    - some guy said "I'm Billy the Kid" before he died, and he's buried in place B
    - another guy said "I'm Billy the Kid" before he died, and he's buried in place C

    Surely places A, B and C are all benefitting from tourist dollars out of the pockets of people wanting to see the "real" Billy the Kid's hole in the ground.

    Why on earth would the officials in place A want to (a) disturb the remains of 4 people (3 Kids and mum), (b) potentially wreck the tourism incomes of places B & C, and (c) potentially wreck the tourism income of their own town? If (c) happens, then I figure they won't be re-elected and will probably need to find a new place to live.

    Surely the commonsense thing for guys in towns A, B & C is to leave things exactly as they are, and try to fuel the mystery of BtK's final resting place as part of his mystique.

    "They think they've got him somewhere else, but old Mabel up the road remembers his grandson who lived just next door and he was a helluva shot with a gun, just like ol' Billy. Killed 150 buffalo in an afternoon with his bare hands, he did, and ate 'em all for dinner that night; never seen a buffalo in these parts since. You can see the family resemblance in this here photo, and you can get your own copy for only $5"
  • Re:The Truth (Score:3, Insightful)

    by eln ( 21727 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @02:02AM (#7461755)
    Billy the Kid is no longer purely just a person who lived, killed some people, and died. He is a bona fide, larger-than-life legend. People go to these places to enjoy the stories of Billy the Kid, many of which are probably apocryphal, but make for good copy nonetheless.

    By digging up some ratty old pile of bones, you are destroying the mystique of the Kid. No one cares if these graves really hold the actual bones of Billy the Kid. People go to these places to experience the legend up close, not for a 100% accurate history lesson. Everywhere in the West where there is even the slightest scrap of evidence that Billy the Kid may have passed through there has some sort of marker, museum, or gift shop spreading the legend.

    Billy the Kid's life and death have always been shrouded in mystery. It is, in part, the mystery that makes it so compelling, and makes so many people want to visit these places. In the end, it makes no difference to the tourists who is really buried where, all that's important is the legend. And believe me, it makes no difference at all to the piles of bones.
  • Re:The Truth (Score:4, Insightful)

    by balloonhead ( 589759 ) <doncuan AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:31AM (#7462254)
    What if they dig them up and find that none of them are Billy the Kid?

    Seriously, this is sad. The dead have no rights, fair enough. But this goes against all the moralities laid down by all the major religions, as well as common decency to those who, like me, are atheists. Leave him in the fucking ground.

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner